Adventures in Reno: Reasons Beyond Gambling to Visit This Nevada Mountain Town

I am staring into the second deepest lake in America from a snow-covered ridge-line above it and I am mesmerized by its dark blue sparkle. My guide, Tucker Ballister, despite having seen this view hundreds of times now, is equally transfixed by the sight of Lake Tahoe below. You can see everything from up here: The whole Tahoe basin from Diamond Peak to the Homewood Ski Resort on the far west shore and all the way down the eastern shore to South Lake. I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away by the views on a snowshoe tour, but am quickly learning this is the perfect winter way to get your bearings in Reno and the Tahoe Basin.

I have just arrived, having caught a flight from Denver into Reno and then drove just 25 minutes to the Mount Rose Meadows area of Tahoe Basin to check out this snowshoe adventure with Tahoe Adventure Company. We have just climbed about 700 feet up a ridge-line to get this impressive mountain and lakes view,  but our pace was never too fast for me to feel uncomfortable with the elevation gain. And beyond the views, the ridge is home to colonies of chickadee birds that have gotten accustomed to eating snacks right out of visitors hands — bring along some bird seed to try.

Check out my video experience here: Things to Do in Reno and Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Tahoe Adventure Company also prides itself on hiring local guides who have in-depth knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and as we climbed and then descended Tucker pointed out and chatted easily about, numerous trees, wildlife and Lake Tahoe itself.

Snowshoeing is just one winter sport to do in the Tahoe Basin. Another is skiing and snowboarding at Diamond Peak Ski Resort. Located in Incline Village on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, it is a very family friendly resort with 20 percent of the trails designated beginner terrain and another 46 percent intermediate.

Diamond Peak also has some of the most scenic ski runs I’ve ever experienced. Make sure to ride the Crystal Express run to the bottom. It’s a long easy trail with stunning views of Lake Tahoe juxtaposed against the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Beyond the scenery, I loved the lack of lift lines and more affordable cost of lift tickets. This is especially true for families as there are cost-saving packages and a child ski center. And just because the resort focuses on families, it also is fun for advanced snowriders with more than 30 percent of the terrain designated steeps.

Located less than an hour drive from Reno, it is easy to spend a day skiing Diamond Peak before heading back to Reno, which has more lodging and dining options, come evening. The small city hosts a range of hotels including Circus Circus and the Eldorado.

And while many people associate Reno mostly with casinos, there is actually quite lot more to do here than gamble. You’ll notice right away, driving down the casino-lined main drag, that there’s also a giant climbing wall. At 164 feet it is the world’s largest manmade wall of its kind and is part of the just opened Basecamp rock climbing gym, which also has a 7,000-square-foot indoor component inside the Whitney Peak Hotel.

On the day I visited, it was weirdly windy, which is not normal for Reno, so I didn’t make it to the top of the wall, but that shouldn’t deter you. The best value is the Big Wall Experience, which includes a climb to the top, a day pass to climb the other outdoor lines and boulder inside as well as equipment rental. On the wall, you’ll find auto belay and top rope options, while inside there is lots of bouldering with routes for all levels including a separate area just for kids. If you’re used to climbing in indoor gyms, you’ll love the vibe here and the like-minded outdoorsy people you’re likely to meet. There’s also an awesome gym onsite if you want to get a different kind of workout in.

Since I travel with my son, Everett, I’m always on the lookout for indoor kid-friendly amenities in towns, and so I was excited to explore the Nevada Discovery Museum. It features a number of fun interactive exhibitions including Nevada Stories, Under the Stars and Inside Out an Anatomy Experience. In Nevada Stories, for instance, kids go back to the Wild West days and can uncover buried artifacts on an archeological dig, learn about Native American culture and work on the transcontinental railroad among other in-room adventures.

All of this exploring, even if just virtually, probably has your stomach rumbling, and if that’s the case then head on over to Kingpai inside the Circus Circus, which gives you a Vegas-style eating experience. It’s a 24-hour all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant on the weekends. After mosey on down to the Eldorado, where you can grab a drink at the Roxy, a jazz and martini bar inside with awesome happy hour specials. The music is fantastic and the jazz piano player takes songs by request and also sings his own sets. Try the chocolate martini or if you prefer a different spirit, The Kentucky is great for bourbon drinkers.

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